(USA Today) – Journalism lost a courageous soldier this week.
Dori J. Maynard, 56, who died Tuesday of lung cancer, didn’t report in combat zones. She had no battle scars to show. Dori’s fight was of a different kind: a fearless, passionate crusade to enlighten newsrooms on why we need to be committed to diversity and accuracy with every story we share. Her most powerful weapons were a clear, relevant message and the respected Maynard name.
Long before I met Dori, I had read about her dad, Robert Maynard, and his second wife, Nancy Hicks Maynard, both of whom were as close to black media royalty as you could get. Who didn’t respect or want to be like the Maynards? They had enjoyed immensely successful, pioneering careers at two of the nation’s most prestigious publications — Robert at The Washington Post and Nancy and The New York Times. The couple also, in an effort to give back in a bigger way, purchased the Oakland Tribune from Gannett, USA TODAY’s parent company, in the early ’80s. This was a historic first for blacks in the U.S. publishing business.
I’m not among the lucky ones to have known Dori, who was president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, for a long time. Our official introduction came in 2012, when she was in Washington, D.C., to discuss ideas for a diversity training program. We would later reunite at ethnic journalism conferences. I was impressed by her humble nature, her openness to perspectives that didn’t always align with her own, and her intrinsic ability to connect so seamlessly with people from all walks of life. She had a magical presence that was disarming at times and a quiet competence that worked to her advantage in her efforts to engage and persuade.